Οι τοιχογραφίες του παρεκκλησίου της Μονής του Ιωάννου του Θεολόγου στην ΠάτμοPart of : Δελτίον της Χριστιανικής Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας ; Vol.32, 1989, pages 205-266
The Wall-paintings of the Chapel of the Virgin at the Monastery of St. John the Theologian on Patmos
The patronage, program and dating of the south chapel of the monastery of St. John the Theologian on Patmos have been addressed in the past by several scholars.Until this time, however, the decoration has never beenunderstood within the context of the Monastery and itsholy men, and thus, past analyses have misinterpretedboth the donor and the intention of his decorative program. In his monographic study on the Monastery,Anastasios Orlandos dated the wall-paintings of the"chapel of the Virgin" on the south side of the katholikon, mainly on stylistic grounds, to the period between1185 and 1195, during the abbacy of Arsenios. In hisconclusions regarding the patronage of the chapel, however, no special attention was given to the contents ofthe iconographie program. By contrast, S. Papadopoulos, in his Guidebook of the Monastery on Patmos,made an astute observation regarding the identity of thedonor of the wall-paintings and their date. In his opinion, the presence of numerous portraits of bishops ofJerusalem should be connected with the Abbot Leontioswho subsequently became Patriarch of Jerusalem. Thehypothesis has been advanced that Leontios commissioned the wall-paintings during the period of his patriarchal office while he still remained head of the Monasteryof Patmos, i.e., between 1176 and 1180. This hypothesishas been accepted by recent scholarship. The presentstudy based on a re-examination of the iconographieprogram in conjunction with evidence provided by hagiographie sources, mainly the Life of St. Leontios, aswell as other testimonies, leads to the conclusion thatthe original decoration of this chapel was commissionedby the Abbot Arsenios as had been originally suggestedby Orlandos. The chapel, however, was not dedicated tothe Virgin, as has been taken for granted until now dueto a dedication of the chapel to the Virgin along with itsredecoration with a new layer of paintings, in 1745, butwas intended to honor the memory of Leontios, spiritual father of Arsenios, and his predecessor as abbot of theMonastery of Patmos. Leontios was the only abbot, other than the founder of the Monastery St. Christodoulos, to gain sainthood. On the basis of a reinterpretationof the decorative program, the frescoes may now safelybe dated shortly after 1185, the year of the death of St.Leontios.The extant decoration in the chapel includes the enthroned Virgin with Child (Figs. 3, 4, and 51) betweenthe Archangels Michael (Fig. 5) and Gabriel (Fig. 6) onthe east wall; the Hospitality of Abraham (Figs. 7-10,and 44) on the tympanum above the Virgin; the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple (Figs. 34 and 35) onthe south wall of the sanctuary; the Meeting of Christand the Samaritan Woman (Fig. 36) and a variety ofChrist's Miracles (the Healing of the Paralytic, the Healing of the Man Born Blind, the Healing of the TenLepers, the Healing of the Bent Woman, etc.) (Figs. 26and 37-39) in the vaults and the upper part of the westwall, as well as an allegorical composition depicting achurch father as "source of wisdom" on the west wall,beneath the Miracle of the Bent Woman (Figs. 39, 40and 41). The special character of the program is determined, to a large extent, by the choice of depicted saintsin which portraits of the bishops of Jerusalem predominate. In the sanctuary, there is a portrait of James, thebrother of God, the first bishop of Jerusalem, as anofficiating prelate (Fig. 13), as well as portraits of twounidentified officiating bishops. On the north and southwalls of the chapel outside the sanctuary, at least eightmore bishops of the church of Jerusalem were represented in frontal poses. Among those depicted are Elijahof Jerusalem (Figs. 12 and 15), Makarios of Jerusalem(Figs. 11 and 42), Sallustios (Figs. 11 and 14), and probably Juvenal. With a few exceptions, the remaininghagiographie portraits are mostly those of bishops,presbyters, or deacons. Surprisingly, there are few portraits of monks, martyrs who were not members of theclergy, and no military saints. In addition, there are noprophets or patriarchs of the Old Testament. The saintsdepicted in the chapel, all of them confessors of the faith, who cover a wide geographical area, include theProtomartyr Stephen (Fig. 13), Loukianos, Sabinos(?),Theodoulos (Fig. 18), Gourias, Samonas and Abibos(Fig. 21), Niphon (Figs. 19 and 22) and Mokios (Figs. 20and 23), Markianos(?) (Fig. 19) and Martyrios(?) (Figs.20 and 24), Ismael, Manuel, and Sabel (Figs. 25-27), theSeven Sleepers of Ephesos (Figs. 26, 28-30 and 46),Hermylos and Stratonikos (Fig. 31) Xenophon and hissons Arkadios and Ioannis (Figs. 32 and 48), Nathanael,Ioannikios of Olympos in Bithynia, Gordios, Epimachos and Arethas (Fig. 33).Several factors reinforce the supposition that this chapelwas not originally dedicated to the Virgin. Most obviousis the complete absence of saints or hymnographersconnected in Byzantine theology with the Virgin and thefundamental role played by her in the Incarnation ofChrist. In addition, there are no figures such as St. Johnthe Baptist that might stress the intercessory content ofthe program —a concept essential for the program of achapel dedicated to the Virgin. On the contrary, thechoice of the saints depicted in the chapel may be explained through their biographies which share a crucialelement with the biography of St. Leontios: the persistent struggle for Orthodoxy. Furthermore, the selectionof scenes from the public life of Christ, decorating thevaulted roof and tympanum of the west wall, is not tiedto the Virgin, but rather, in their depiction of specificMiracles of Christ, may be tied directly to miracleswrought by St. Leontios. In fact, the only scene from thelife of the Virgin, her Presentation in the Temple (Figs.34 and 35), may also be regarded as a striking parallelfor the wonderous life of St. Leontios, which acquiredflesh and blood from the moment he abandoned worldlycares and devoted himself to God —that is, from themoment he chose the path of the priesthood.The hypothesis that the chapel was dedicated to St.Leontios provides alternate interpretations for severalscenes included in the program. The Hospitality of Abraham (Fig. 10) was included in the program not onlybecause of its symbolism relating to the Eucharist, butbecause it also symbolized the Holy Trinity. Accordingto written sources, Leontios, as Patriarch of Jerusalemin exile in Constantinople, took part in the theologicaldebate concerning an aspect of the Holy Trinity thatfound expression in the statement "My Father is greaterthan I" (John, 14:28). Codex 187 of Patmos, whichcontains the Life of Leontios, also incorporates a textwritten by him with the title "Chapters Concerning theHoly Trinity", which consists almost exclusively of acommentary on the above passage from the Gospelof John. A puzzling wall-painting, the allegorical composition showing a church father as "source ofwisdom" (Figs. 39-41) may now be understood in lightof the dedication of the chapel to St. Leontios. The figureof the church father is largely destroyed. He was sittingbefore a desk with a lectern and reading a book. Fromthe top of the lectern stem three springs of water, formingstreams at which various ecclesiastical and lay figuresare quenching their thirst. An aged monk (Fig. 41) isdistinguished from the others by his depiction in closeproximity to the church father. Orlandos was of theopinion that the scene represented St. John Chrysostomas "source of wisdom", a rare subject usually found fromthe second half of the 14th century onwards in icons andwall-paintings. According to the new interpretation ofthe iconographie program, the church father is Leontios,who seems from his Life to have been a skilled orator,and who is referred to as Chrysostom at another point ofthis text. Moreover, the earliest icon of Leontios in theMonastery of Patmos (Fig. 53) depicts him with thedistinctive features of St. John Chrysostom.The Life of St. Leontios provides a number of importantarguments that the south chapel of the monastery wasoriginally dedicated to this saint. Composed by the monkTheodosios Goudelis shortly after 1203, a few yearsfollowing the saint's death, the Life was commissionedby Arsenios, who provided personal testimony concerning the life of his spiritual father. The text is preserved intwo contemporary manuscripts of the Patmos Library,Codex 187 on parchment, and an unpublished scroll onpaper, datable to the beginning of the 13th century.According to the Life, Leontios was born in Strumica,Macedonia, but went to Constantinople while still ayoung man. He there became a monk and lived like aHoly Fool. He became the spiritual son of the exiledbishop of Tiberias and accompanied him when he returned to Palestine. They were obliged by unfavorablewinds to disembark at Patmos, where they visited theMonastery of St. John the Theologian, before continuingtheir journey as far as Cyprus. On Cyprus, the bishop ofTiberias urged Leontios to return to Patmos. Leontiosacquiesced to his advice and subsequently passed throughthe monastic ranks until he became oikonomos, andfinally in 1158, abbot of the Monastery. Leontios performed miracles while still a young man, and did so withincreasing frequency later. He travelled on Monasterybusiness, mainly to Crete and Constantinople. In Crete,he became acquainted with a young man named Antonios, later Arsenios, who became his pupil and followedhim to Patmos. On one of his visits to Constantinoplehe made the acquaintance of the drougarios Andronikos Kamateros, who introduced him to Manuel I Komnenos. The emperor offered to Leontios the vacant Metropolitan See of Russia and then that of Archbishop ofCyprus, but the latter declined both offers. In the end,he was elevated to the Patriarchal See of Jerusalem bythe emperor.Leontios was the only Orthodox patriarch to visit Jerusalem in order to assume his office during the periodof the Latin occupation. On his way to Jerusalem heperformed miracles on Cyprus, at Acre and, later,Nazareth. In Jerusalem he visited the Holy Sepulchre asan ordinary pilgrim, since the Latins frowned upon hispresence there. He was finally discovered on account ofhis miracles and their fame amongst the faithful, and wasnearly murdered by the Latins. He therefore left the HolyLand and, on the exhortation of Manuel I, returned toConstantinople. In the capital, the exiled patriarchvigorously opposed the illegal union that Andronikos Iultimately succeeded in bringing about between hisdaughter Eirene and Alexios II. He also took part in thetheological debate on the aspect of the doctrine of theHoly Trinity mentioned above. Leontios died at an oldage in Constantinople, on May 14,1185. He was interredin the church of St. Michael the Archangel at Steirou,where his relics continued to perform miracles.Leontios was appointed patriarch of Jerusalem in 1176,and from then until his death in 1185, never returned toPatmos. However he was kept informed of the Monastery's affairs by his spiritual son Arsenios, whom he hadappointed oikonomos of the Monastery. Leontios remained head of the monastery, at least in name, until1183, when he proclaimed Arsenios abbot. If the donation of funds for the chapel on Patmos was the patronage of Leontios, it must be assigned to the period between 1176 and 1183, and preferably after the date ofLeontios' return to Constantinople at the end of 1178 or1179. During this period Leontios could easily havemade use of the economic resources of the Monastery.The construction of a chapel on Patmos would onlymake sense if the Saint wished to be buried on the island, but this is not substantiated either by the Life or byhistorical realities. Moreover, Leontios was by temperament always inclined towards spiritual and theoreticalmatters rather than action. The Life fully confirms theevidence presented by the iconographie program of thechapel which precludes the possibility that Leontioshimself was the patron. By contrast, all the evidencereinforces the view that the cult of Leontios in the Monastery on Patmos was established by his successor asabbot, and spiritual son, Arsenios, who remained abbotuntil shortly before 1206. Arsenios was one of the mostactive abbots of the Monastery of Patmos in the Byzantine period. All the evidence suggests that he was thepromoter of the major building program at the Monastery which has been assigned by scholars to the 12thcentury. This program included, amongst other items,the addition of the exonarthex to the katholikon, thereconstruction of the chapel of the monastery's founderSt. Christodoulos, on the southwest side of the katholikon, the erection of the Leontios chapel on the southside, and the remodelling of the refectory. Arsenios alsocoordinated the composition of the Encomium of St.Christodoulos by the learned monk, Theodosios Goudelis, and the Life of St. Leontios by the same author.Arsenios was himself a calligrapher and manuscriptcopyist, and also coordinated the drawing up of a Catalogue of the books, sacred vessels, and precious iconsowned by the Monastery in 1200. The fact that the wallpaintings in the Leontios chapel, in the earliest layer ofthe refectory, and also frescoes in the Monastery's metochia on neighboring islands, can all be dated to theperiod when Arsenios was abbot, supports our view thatit was Arsenios who provided the inspiration and located the financing for the south chapel. His desire tocreate a memorial chapel to a man who was both hisspiritual father and an outstanding personality was inkeeping with the spiritual climate of the period.The cult of St. Leontios in the Monastery of Patmos wasnever very strong apart from the period of Arsenios andperhaps also in the 19th century. A small painted iconwith a portrait of the saint which can be dated to the endof the 14th century is preserved in the Monastery (Fig.53). In addition, there is a frontal depiction of Leontiosnext to the Dormition of St. Christodoulos on thepainted icon cover of the gilded silver revetment of thechest that contains Christodoulos' relics (Figs. 55 and56). The fortunes of the cult of St. Leontios on Patmosfollowed the trajectory which one would expect in thecase of a 12th-century saint who was not the founder of amonastery, and who was not buried in the Monasterythat was the center of his cult. The case of Leontiosaffords ample evidence for the study of spiritual kinship,an important aspect of the spiritual history ofByzantium.